Here’s a list of the top 10 deadliest pandemics this world has ever seen. Amid the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic, we think people should understand the gravity of the various epidemics and pandemics that have happened in the past, and how dangerous it is to live in a pandemic situation. This might be the first experience for most of the people who were born post-World Wars, but certainly, there are some people who have experienced even worse. Was there something more dangerous than COVID-19? Hmm, let’s find out.
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Here is the definitive list of the 10 deadliest pandemics
10. 1918-1922 Russia typhus epidemic
Cases – around 30 million (3 crores), Death – around 3 million (30 lakhs)
An epidemic that took the life of around 2% of the Russian population was undoubtedly much severe than how it sounds. Even though typhus has claimed millions of lives, it is still considered to be a rare disease. Epidemic typhus is a form of an infection caused by Rickettsiae, a genus of nonmotile, also known as louse-borne typhus. It is impossible for these parasites to survive outside their host organism and would depend on other species like fleas, mites, lice or human. This disease is typically caused due to wars or natural disasters where civil life is interrupted and often result in an epidemic. Epidemic typhus generally spreads due to human contact with infected lice.
09. 1590-1520 Mexico Smallpox epidemic
Cases – around 30 million (3 crores), Death – around 7 million (70 lakhs)
Half of the Mexican population was wiped due to this precarious disease, Mexico suffered from demographic catastrophe with only a handful of parallels in the world’s history. Smallpox remained an unknown disease throughout America, before the arrival of Europeans. Gratefully now, smallpox is an eradicated virus that used to be contagious, disfiguring and often deadly. In addition to its flu-like nature, patients often experienced some kind of rashes on their face and hands, which would eventually infect their forearms and another part of the body. There is no treatment, even to this date that can cure smallpox, but thanks to people like Edward Jenner for creating vaccination for smallpox which eventually helped to completely annihilate this virus.
Fun fact: Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine was world’s first vaccine.
08. 165-180 CE Antonine Plague
Cases – around 70 million (7 crores) , Death – around 9 million (90 lakhs)
The Antonine Plague also known as the Plague of Galen, was an ancient pandemic that was brought to the Roman Empire troops who were returning from their campaigns in the Near East. Scholars analyse that this would have either been smallpox or measles. This deadly plague even claimed the life of a Roman emperor, Lucius Verus. The emperor had risen to throne even after being an adopted son of Antoninus Pius, and the plague was named after that family title. It is still unclear how many were affected by this plague, but the death toll was stupefying.
07. 1545-1548 Cocoliztli Epidemic
Cases – around 40 million (4 crores), Death – around 12 million (1.2 crores)
Another one from Spain, around from the same time, The Cocoliztli epidemic or the great pestilence is a term given to a series of millions of death toll. It attributes to multiple illness collectively known as Cocoliztli, however dominated by a mysterious illness characterised by a disease that became known as Cocoliztli by the native Aztecs and had devastating effects on its indigenous people. But certain research claims that the disease might have caused due to a microbe. A lot of historic records state that it was some type of fever similar to the ebola outbreak and it seems that the microbe was salmonella—a common food-borne illness—brought by European colonizers.
06. 2019-Present COVID-19 Pandemic
Cases – around 152 million (15 crores) , Death – around 3 million (30 lakhs) -present
Finally something relatable, COVID-19 Pandemic or coronavirus 2020 is probably one of the most dangerous viruses out there, that spreads like a forest fire. Though the number of death cases is considerably low, the total positive cases are enormous. This virus is typically transmitted through the respiratory route when an infected person cough, sneezes or breathes. respiratory droplets or aerosols, get into the mouth, nose, or eyes of other people who are in close contact with the infected person. Their respiratory droplets transmit to the other person and spread the disease to a larger area.
However no one knows the exact origin of the virus but the first outbreak started in Wuhan, China in late 2019. The virus is still growing at a very faster pace even after the discovery of vaccination, probably due to its virus mutating nature. This list of the 10 deadliest pandemics may be altered.
05. 1855–1960 Third Plague Pandemic
Cases – around 152 million (15 crores) , Death – around 15 million (1.5 crores)
The third plague pandemic was a major bubonic plague pandemic that started in Yunnan, China in the mid 1800s during the Xianfeng Emperor of Qing dynasty. This epidemic spread throughout all the inhabited continents and ultimately killing more than 12 million deaths in India and China with around 10 million deaths in India alone, making this one of the deadliest pandemic in the world history. The disease spread in two different phase or sources. The first was transported around the world through the ocean trade while transporting infected people and rats. However the second source of transmission was pneumonic in character with person-to-person contagion.
04. 1981-Present HIV/AIDs
Cases – around 50 million (5 crores) , Death – around 35 million (3.5 crores) -present
HIV/AIDS, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is considered by some authors a global pandemic, this sexually transmitted disease was first discovered in the year 1981 and since then had been a life threatening illness since then. HIV is spread primarily due to unprotected sex, contaminated blood transfusions and from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Unlike other pandemics, HIV has a serious effect on society where people are discriminated. It is believed that the disease initially transmitted from chimpanzees and gorillas to human beings.
03. 541-549 CE Plague of Justinian
Cases – around 100 million (10 crores) , Death – around 60 million (6 crores)
Plague of Justinian is possibly the first recorded pandemic outbreak. This contagious disease was caused by a bacterium named Yersinia pestis. The disease affected the Central Europe with Mediterranean Basin, Europe and the Near East, however the disease has severely affected the Sasanian Empire and Constantinople in the Byzantine Empire. Major historians believe that this probably the deadliest pandemic in the early history resulting a total death toll of an estimated 15-50 million death during the span of the entire epidemic. The death toll was equivalent to 25-50% of Europe’s population at the time of the outbreak.
02. 1918-1920 Spanish Flu
Cases – around 500 million (50 crores) , Death – around 90 million (9 crores)
The Spanish flu or the 1918 influenza pandemic, was the deadliest influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus. Starting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected over 500 million people which was around a third of the world population in its four consecutive waves. Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a higher-than-expected mortality rate for young adults. The most common signs and symptoms for the infected were that typical of any other flu which included headache, fever etc which eventually resulted in pneumonia. However, it also claims that survivors faced elevated mortality risk and often faced psychologically challenging conditions.
01. 1346-1353 Black Death
Cases – around 700 million (70 crores) , Death – around 200 million (20 crores)
Black Death is the deadliest pandemic this world has ever seen, perhaps will ever see. Also known as Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague, was a bubonic plague pandemic that occurred in Afro-Eurasia from 1346 to 1353. It is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, causing the death of around 200 million people wiping around one-third of the entire European population. There are no exact figures for the death toll; the rate varied widely by locality. In urban centres, the greater the population before the outbreak, the longer the duration of the period of abnormal mortality.
The origin of the Black Death is still unknown, but it is believed that the Black Death originated in Asia about 2000 years ago. The symptoms included large lumps on the body especially under armpits named plague-boils.
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This definitive list of the top 10 deadliest Pandemics is here, but we still do not know if there would be any other updates, but we can atleast stop COVID-19 from reaching any further. Curb COVID-19 and limit its rank in the Top 10 deadliest Pandemics list.